Manufacturers Gaining Market Share with Multi-Channel Ecommerce
The Reach of Digital Commerce Challenges
In business, some challenges are known and often are recurring or come in waves impacted by the market. One such example would be the current labor shortage faced by businesses globally.
Many challenges are often the result of new ways of doing business including entirely new business models challenging the status quo, similar to the impact that Uber had on the taxi industry. But the challenges in business being caused by digital commerce are not industry-specific, these challenges are spanning every market, vertical and industry. All commerce is ecommerce today and those with the most to gain or lose are product manufacturers.
The Ecommerce Impact on Manufacturers’ Business Model
With the rise in ecommerce adoption, manufacturers have begun to shift how business is conducted. Previously manufacturers manufactured products. Those products were then sold to the next step in the distribution channel, often distributors, wholesalers and occasionally retailers.
Manufacturers did not have to worry about multiple sales channels as is the case today. Previous common challenges were related to aligning product vision with market research. Now to differentiate, a manufacturer must also take into consideration its brand, sales channels and the customer’s experience.
When the demand for meeting customers where they are is realized, some may panic. There are many different channels in the modern sales experience. A manufacturer’s typical place at the top of the supply chain means there is plenty of opportunity to gain market share.
The Many Channels of Modern Sales
The age of digital commerce is here, powered by APIs, and buyers are selecting the best experiences with company budgets. Determining where and how to sell can be just as important today as determining what to sell for manufacturers.
While manufacturers have an existing customer base, typically distributors, dealers and retailers, many do not have access to the end-user of the product. That end customer truly determines the success of a manufacturer. This can be looked at as a challenge but manufacturers can implement sales channels that allow direct access to the end-customer base, some channels using models that even avoid the dreaded channel conflict.
- B2C / D2C Ecommerce: business-to-consumer (B2C) or direct-to-consumer ecommerce (D2C), a business model that involves sales between businesses and consumers online.
- B2B2C Ecommerce: a business model that allows business 1 (B1) to use ecommerce web-stores to sell its products through business 2 (B2) that has existing relationships with end customers.
- Marketplaces: digital channels operated by business-to-business (B2B) or B2C companies that invite third-party sellers to syndicate products for sale directly to end customers
- Drop-ship Ecommerce: a business model in which ecommerce vendors sell products without stocking any inventory.
Then, there are sales channels that do not target a new customer type but expand the existing customer base of a manufacturer. Each channel impacts the customer base differently, whether through share of wallet penetration, transactional experience optimization or geographic expansion.
- B2B Ecommerce: business-to-business ecommerce, is the sale of goods or services between businesses electronically.
- Sale Rep Enablement: is the usage of ecommerce data to provide more value to customers and optimize account opportunities.
- International Ecommerce: is the selling of products through ecommerce to buyers in foreign countries.
While all of these channels provide an opportunity for manufacturers to gain market share, they aren’t without risk. A deeper look will showcase the benefits as well as some of the challenges each channel brings to a manufacturer.
The Questions of Multi-Channel Ecommerce
For a manufacturer that is seriously considering multi-channel ecommerce, if an investment into B2B ecommerce hasn’t already been made, that is the first place to start. Digitizing existing customers' buying journey will set a foundation for optimization and establish processes needed to expand the business into other digital sales channels.
If B2B ecommerce is already in place as a sales channel, the true question to address is whether to pursue digitizing existing channels or investing in new digital channels?
Digitizing existing channels will help expand wallet share with the existing customer base, provide unrealized efficiency to internal processes and expand market share to a known customer type. Investing in new digital channels can provide entirely new customers but also create the need for new processes.
What pricing structures and what types of products make the best fit?
Each channel will have different challenges. Product selection and pricing structures of those products will be a large one. D2C ecommerce challenges may not require the complex pricing agreements as B2B ecommerce. Additionally, consumers may not be willing to pay a premium for industrial-grade products purchased from marketplaces. Finding the right mix of product and price for each digital channel will be key for success.
Can the current infrastructure support selling on multiple sales channels?
As already mentioned, the customer support inquiries and order fulfillment demands for consumer orders from B2C ecommerce channels may be drastically different than a manufacturer’s current infrastructure. Considerations must be given to what each channel and corresponding customer type will need to experience a successful and ideal customer experience.
Will products be available to meet demand?
Often supply chain and production teams at manufacturers fear new sales channels as predicting demand can be difficult. New customer types create the greatest challenge in product forecasting as there is no precedence to how products will be purchased. Establishing separate inventories dedicated to new digital sales channels is one way to ensure product availability while minimizing risk. Manufacturer’s can test consumer sales channels with limited time offers to predict future product demand as well. As more channels are added to manufacturers’ sales efforts the need for business intelligence tools and data warehouses will be needed to calculate opportunity.
The Benefits of Multi-Channel Sales Online
Multi-channel selling is not a new go-to-market strategy. Enterprise-level manufacturers have been selling in many different channels for years, but with increasing adoption of ecommerce, more and more manufacturers are joining the multi-channel sales ranks. The benefits to manufacturers selling in multiple ecommerce channels can allow businesses to reach market penetration like never before.
- Brand recognition is probably the simplest benefit of multi-channel sales, but one that has an everlasting result. The more a brand is seen, the more the brand is known. Utilizing Znode, manufacturers can use the native content management system to ensure brand experiences are curated with the right content. This means any sales channel can have content fed to it thanks to Znode’s headless content capabilities.
- The resources and tools to build a multi-channel ecommerce business are more available and at a lower cost than ever before. Manufacturers can engage in multi-channel ecommerce at drastically reduced costs than even ten years ago when monolithic ecommerce platforms required substantial infrastructure and development investment to support. By centralizing ecommerce operations within one platform, Znode enables manufacturers to focus on maximizing efforts of sales in those channels instead of the technology constraints of getting to market.
- More and more buyers are shopping across multiple channels. From marketplaces to brand web-stores, buyers are seeking the best experience in order to acquire the information needed to make a purchase. Remember to sell to prospective buyers, not to channels.
- The likelihood that the industry a manufacturer serves is saturated by multi-channel sales offers is low, for now. The competition is adapting and finding new ways to go to market. Digital commerce is a game of innovation and the manufacturer that can grasp the most market share will win.
The Manufacturer’s Checklist to Multi-Channel Selling
Follow the steps below as a guide to prepare, engage and maximize manufacturer’s multi-channel selling efforts:
- Determine the Channels - Selecting the right channels at the right time is important for a manufacturer entering into multi-channel ecommerce. Weighing infrastructure and resource requirements for each channel can help determine the appropriate order if a manufacturer is seeking to sell in many new channels. The opportunity that a sales channel provides must also be determined for an appropriate risk/benefit analysis. Znode’s ability to manage all ecommerce channels in one platform will allow for limitless scalability as new channels are added.
- Set Up the Supporting Infrastructure - Choosing the right tools for the job makes completing it easier. While this is known in manufacturing, it is not always applied in multi-channel ecommerce.
An ecommerce platform that can support any digital sales channel a manufacturer adds is a must. Additionally, the right supporting tools such as a tax engine to manage the constraint of global tax requirements, multi-channel marketing platforms and logistics providers can all impact the success of a manufacturer’s multi-channel ecommerce operation.
- Centralize Management - Znode’s product information management (PIM) system allows for the creation of catalogs for every channel. Along with product catalogs, the customer experience can be configured based upon channel, account, user or segment within Znode.
- Optimize Operations - Quickly curate account-specific catalogs when onboarding new customers regardless of the sales channel. Znode serves as one system for customer service teams to manage quotes, orders and returns. Sales teams can leverage ecommerce data and reports curated with native Microsoft Power BI integration to feed Sales Console insights.
- Lower Total Cost of Ownership - One platform to manage all channels means one license cost unlike the monolithic ecommerce platforms that required multiple database licenses to manage numerous channels. A single technology stack also means lower cost for development resources with one platform of focus. Lastly, centralized ecommerce management means a single integration point to maintain.
- Reduce Opportunity Loss - Quickly add new web-stores to expand into new sales channels with Znode’s multi-store capabilities. Znode’s API-first architecture with over 1200 API endpoints also allows for unique customer experiences beyond a standard ecommerce web store.